UK energy regulator Ofgem is launching an investigation on the compliance of Western Power Distribution (WPD) regarding the updating of its Priority Services Register (PSR). The probe will find out whether WPD made any violations to the licensing condition.
WPD is an operator of an electricity distribution network that services South Wales, South West, and the East and West Midlands.
Ofgem investigates Western Power Distribution concerning its potential violation of the Standard Licence Condition 10 (SLC 10) stipulated under the Electricity Distribution Licence. These guidelines for licenced electricity distributors include obligatory functions they need to fulfill for customers listed on the Priority Services Register.
Energy operators need to create and maintain a PSR, as well as inform and advise customers about the PSR. They are also expected to publicise PSR procedures and services.
The investigation will relate to the compliance of Western Power Distribution East Midlands plc, Western Power Distribution South West plc, Western Power Distribution South Wales plc, and Western Power Distribution West Midlands plc, gauging whether a breach to the SLC 10 has been made.
SLC 10 also imposes the licensee to provide any information required by the customer, including any planned interruptions, with no additional charge to the customers. The licensee should also address other communication needs of clients as necessary.
Statements made by the licensee should also be prepared in intelligible and straightforward language, explaining the necessary arrangements made for its compliance of the SLC10 that are relevant to the customers.
Despite the ongoing investigation, Ofgem maintains that findings and decisions on the possible non-compliance of WPD are yet to be made.
Entering the PSR
The Priority Services Register obligates network operators and suppliers to provide services for free to the customers that need help with their energy supply. Every firm should create and maintain its register.
Customers can request to be listed on the PSR if they are disabled or afflicted with a chronic illness, of pensionable age, have an existing long-term medical condition, with visual or hearing impairment or need other communication needs, or are currently on a vulnerable situation.
Consumers may also join the PSR as per the request of their electricity supplier.
Those deemed to be in vulnerable situations must meet certain circumstances to be considered for PSR eligibility. These conditions include those who have mental health conditions that may affect how they understand their bill, customers with injuries who are unable to top-up their prepayment meters, and those who need assistance for a limited time due to a temporary circumstance.
Additionally, customers living with a child below five years old can be offered relevant priority services by their network operator.
Services under the PSR
If a customer is registered on a PSR, they are eligible to receive free services from their network operator or supplier. Some of these services include an advanced notice for scheduled power cuts, identification schemes, and password protection to reassure customers that anyone contacting them as the firm’s representative is genuine and has a valid transaction. PSR customers also get priority support in case of emergencies, such as cooking facilities and alternative heating.
PSR clients may also avail of the nominee scheme, wherein the customer can nominate another family member or caregiver to receive communication from the supplier on their behalf. Other services in PSR are prepayment meter accessibility, meter reading services, and convenience of learning information, whether for billing or account purposes, in braille or larger print.
The network operator or supplier may also render similar services depending on a consumer’s needs and if it’s reasonable to provide it to the customer.
To know whether a user is eligible to enter the PSR, they are advised to contact their respective energy supplier. It’s recommended, especially for people who are dependent on the energy supply due to medical reasons.
If a customer belonging to the PSR switches supplier, they need to re-register to the service again under the new supplier.